Friday, 20 November 2009 No Peeking

Firstly, apologies for the long post - it didn't start out that way, but somehow grew.

I still remember one long ago Saturday sitting in the dark with my brother, waiting for the horror double-bill to start. I was tired, but alert with anticipation as I always was when allowed to stay up late for the usual scare-fest of an old Universal flick followed by a Hammer or an Amicus.

I loved all that stuff; it was the highlight of the week. It was scary, but it was safe; none of it was real and I knew that. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, monsters – all great fun, but safe fun. I’d go to bed happy, without glancing over my shoulder or jumping at shadows. I’d lie awake and think of the stories I could write.

This particular Saturday night was different; this Saturday night the main feature was Don’t Look Now. From the opening scene with the rain falling on the water I knew this was different and I was set on edge straight away. Something told me this wasn’t going to be safe, this was going to be real.

And it was.

The ball floating on the water, the jacket the boy wears as he repairs his bike on the grass, his long 70’s hair, the little girl in the red rain coat clutching an Action Man (my Action Man) in her hand. All these simple things anchored it in reality, in my reality; in things I saw every day.

Then the little girl dies.

And as she slipped under the water, I was truly, truly terrified.

While the whole film unnerved me, it was the ending that kept me awake that night and for many nights after. The small figure in the red coat standing in the corner, facing the wall. Then she turns...

Perhaps I shouldn’t have watched it back then, but I did and it stayed with me. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but I could grasp how devastating it was.

Nothing before or since has had the same kind of impact on me. It’s the one fictional thing I can say has ever instilled me with a real, intense fear and horror and dread.

Looking back it’s easy to see the influence this has had on my writing, especially since I’ve had children. It’s scarred me for life, but for the better.

To this day, it sends a shiver of fear through me. It’s a bright, sunny day here and I’m alone in the office as I write this and I’ve just watched the clip below.

And I’ve felt that familiar fear that’s stayed with me all these years.

It's on TV tonight in my neck of the woods and I'm still not sure if I'll be watching it.

It's on late and it'll be dark.


Aaron Polson said...

Don't Look Now is a wonderful movie. Really off-putting.

Best part of the clip: Sutherland says "I won't hurt you." Ha!

Rebecca Nazar said...

I know so little about horror movies. I don't have the mental fortitude to endure them.

I loved Sutherland as the original Hawkeye Pierce.

The grittiness and emotional bleakness of '70's movies can make for gripping, if not exhausting, viewing. Probably the Nixon-era. Anyway, some of my favorites--Duel(71), staring Dennis Weaver, The Warriors(79), staring Michael Beck--which have horrific elements but probably fall more in the suspense category.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest are others that walloped me.

Apologies for the long comment.

L.R. Bonehill said...

Aaron – It’s a classic that gets me every time.

Becca – Despite everything I’ve said, it’s not a horror film as such, but it’s very disturbing and never fails to chill me. It’s grief and loss and desperation.

I seem to harp on about the 70’s a lot – I’ll get over them one day. The films were great, it was a decade filled with classics. I’d go along with all your choices; I remember being stunned by They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Long comments more than welcome.

Cate Gardner said...

One of my favourite movies. One of these days I'm going to buy a red duffle coat and go to Venice. :D